Save the alternative comic book!
Eightball. Love and Rockets. Hate. Yummy Fur. Grit Bath. Meatcake. Palookaville. Dirty Plotte. In a distant time, serialized staple-bound solo anthology series dominated the alternative comics scene, and these (more or less) regularly published floppy-formatted comics roamed the earth in huge hordes. They also gave people interested in genres other than superheroes a reason to come back to comic shops week after week. Today they’re on the verge of extinction, supplanted by graphic novels and webcomics as the venues of choice for alternative work, with only a quixotic few — Alvin Buenaventura’s Pigeon Press, Igort and Fantagraphics’ Ignatz Line, Anders Nilsen’s recently completed Big Questions, the occasional issue of Uptight or Optic Nerve — keeping the torch lit.
But cartoonist Box Brown is looking to pull this fabled format back from the brink in a big way with Retrofit Comics, a new Kickstarter-funded publishing imprint seeking to publish fully 16 32-page pamphlet-format alternative comic books in a single year. Brown’s assembled an impressive line-up of creators for Retrofit Year One, including James Kochalka, Liz Bailie, Noah Van Sciver, L. Nichols, and Chuck Forsman — as well as a murderer’s row of retailers committed to carrying the comics, including The Beguiling, Jim Hanley’s Universe, Quimby’s, Desert Island, Floating World, Bergen Street, Chicago Comics, and Forbidden Planet UK. I think this last part is key. Brown explains that he’s doing this in part to provide alternative comics creators with the regular feedback of an audience as opposed to having them disappear from view for years at a time to draw a graphic novel, but that’s the sort of thing publishing to the web can take care of. What it can’t do is create an incentive for altcomix fans to visit their local comic shop, which would presumably drive more demand for similar books down the line. That’s worth pushing for.